Why We Believe the Bible

Session 3

The Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Authority of the Bible

We were praying before the session, and one of the texts that we prayed over was this one:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18–20)

Now, that phrase, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” is part of the commission that we receive from the Lord. And it is valid as long as this age lasts. This age is still lasting; therefore, the command to the church still exists to “teach them everything that I have commanded you.” That has been heavy on my heart for about two years. It is what drove me when I was on sabbatical to prepare the book, What Jesus Demands from the World. That book is my effort to obey Jesus in that command.

If he stands me in front of him on the last day and quotes me his command, “Teach them everything I commanded.” I’m just going to say, “I tried to in What Jesus Demands from the World. I tried to give a summary of what you commanded to the whole world in that book. That’s my best shot. If I blew it, spank me, but I tried.”

Now, here’s the implication of this issue: There is no access to what Jesus commanded except through the Bible — none. Therefore, if that commandment is to be obeyed, then we have to have a large measure of confidence in this book. I do want to obey that statement — “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, go teach them to observe everything that I commanded. And I’ll be with you.”

So, even though we are talking about foundations in this seminar, the goal is obedience to everything that he commanded. Because if you don’t have confidence that what is written here is what he commanded, then you won’t obey that command. There’ll be no way for you to do it.

Step Four: What Does the Bible Claim for Itself?

In step one, we asked, why are we concerned about the Bible? In step two, we covered which books make up the Bible and why. And in step three, we covered the question, do we have the very words written by the biblical authors? All of that is in the previous sessions.

And now we move to step four: What does the Bible claim for itself? I wrote in the margin here, “Jesus’s view,” because I have stacks of overheads like this that I’m not going to use that would be the apostles’ claims, the prophets’ claims, and the law’s claims. There are so many hundreds of texts on the self-claim, so I’m just going to take Jesus because I think he is, in this regard, the most significant testifier to the authority and truth of the Bible. So, let’s listen to what Jesus says about the Old Testament.

I know a rigorous thinker at this point would say, “This is circular here. You’re using Jesus, and you haven’t proved yet that what he said is true.” And I know that that’s what I’m doing. I’m doing it partly because of time, and partly because the most liberal scholars that I dealt with, like Bultmann in my early years of study, all agree that what I’m about to tell you about Jesus’s attitude towards the Old Testament is in fact what his attitude was. What I’m about to show you right now is not generally up for grabs. What the historical Jesus thought about the Bible is not generally controverted. Whether Jesus is God and whether Jesus is a true spokesman has all kinds of disagreement. But as far as what he thought about the Old Testament is not. So, that’s why I’m jumping right in here with these comments.

I’ve got a whole bunch of comments about what Jesus thought, and we’ll try to move through them relatively quickly because in the end, the main substance of this seminar is, “Why do we believe it?” not, “Did Jesus say it?” And so, we’ll get there, Lord willing.

Validating the Psalms and Moses

Jesus believed the Psalmist spoke by the Holy Spirit. We’re just going to pick sample statements that Jesus had about his view of the Old Testament. Mark 12:35 says:

And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’

He is quoting Psalm 110:1 there. There’s that little phrase. Jesus says, “This is the way David spoke these words.” And he’s commenting on the authority that David had when he spoke. So, he believed that David was speaking in the power, in the truth, in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus believed that what Moses wrote in the law God himself actually said. This one is very interesting. Matthew 19:3–6 says:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning (that’s God, right?) made them male and female (quoting Genesis 1:27), and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”

In the Old Testament, quoted right there form Genesis 2:24, it isn’t God who’s talking; it’s Moses, the writer, who says:

Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
     and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
     because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother (that’s what Jesus was quoting) and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

And Jesus says, “God said it.” That’s amazing. These are little subtle ways that are just opening us to the mind of Christ as to how he viewed the Old Testament. You get a sentence like that written by Moses, not quoting God, and Jesus says, “God said it.” That’s very, very significant in Jesus’s view of the authority and inspiration of the Old Testament.

Jesus put the authority of Scripture above Satan and above his own human preferences. I’ll pass over this one quickly. This is Matthew 4:3–10, and it’s about how he quotes the Scripture every time the devil tempts him. He says, “It is written. It is written. It is written,” showing that he’s going to live his whole life and fight the devil by the Scriptures, which are authoritative over the devil.

All Will Be Accomplished

Jesus believed that all Scripture would be fulfilled. Matthew 5:17–18 says:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

That’s how confident he was of everything that was prophesied in the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus saw Moses and the Prophets as speaking compelling truth on how to avoid hell. Luke 16:28 is about the rich man who was cast into hell, while the poor man was taken into the bosom of Abraham. And the rich man is talking to Abraham in heaven. It says:

“I have five brothers — so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” And he said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

This is Jesus saying what Abraham in heaven would say to a man in hell who’s saying, “Give him something besides the word of God. Give him a sign and a wonder. Give him a resurrection.” And Abraham says, “This word is such that if you reject it, nothing will work.” That’s a remarkable view of the Old Testament.

Jesus believed that the small affirmations of Scripture cannot be broken. John 10:33–36, referring to Psalm 82:6, says:

The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came — and Scripture cannot be broken — do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

Now, that little insertion — and it’s hard to know whether Jesus spoke that or John spoke that — the testimony here from Jesus or John is that it can’t be broken. Little phrases, little side comments, can’t be broken.

The Abiding Authority of the Law

Jesus put the authority of Moses above the distortions of the scribes. Matthew 23:1–3 says:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do.

That is an amazing thing to say about Pharisees. He didn’t like the Pharisees. They were hypocrites. But he said, “When they sit in the chair of Moses and they speak the words of the Old Testament, do what they say. But when they get out and behave, don’t make them an authority.” That’s an amazing distinction that Jesus is making because of his high esteem for the word they were supposed to handle faithfully.

Jesus taught that Moses’s writings are to be believed. John 5:39 says:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me . . .

That’s the view that he has of their function. They are a faithful testimony to him.

Jesus contrasted the traditions of men with the word of God in the Old Testament. Mark 7:9–13 says:

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Do you see what he’s doing? He’s saying, “Okay. I see all of this Pharisaic tradition that’s grown up — one of them being a tradition called Corban, which means if you say something belongs to God, you don’t have to support your poor parents with it, because you’ve now made it religious.”

Jesus got really bent out of shape about that. And he said, “The Bible says to honor your father and mother. To hell with your traditions.” Now, we therefore should, I think, be like Jesus and say, “Let’s be very careful that all of our ecclesiastical traditions, and all of our family traditions, and all of our other traditions don’t get in the way. I mean, for you young people, you just say, “Oh, I don’t have any traditions yet.” Baloney, you don’t. You go to the movies every weekend. And what are you watching? Habits are traditions. We should measure everything we do by the Bible, just like Jesus did. These are strong words from the Lord concerning this Old Testament that we have here, that he so prized and so believed in.

Kept From Error

Jesus believed that knowing the Scriptures would keep you from doctrinal error. Mark 12:19–24 says:

Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers (they’re trapping him and trying to trick him); the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died (with a smirk on their face, they’re trying to make the resurrection look ludicrous). In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.

They think, “Got you. There’s polygamy in heaven.” That’s the idea. It is a really relevant text because my dad had two wives. My mother was his wife for 36 years, and she died. And then, Lavonne was his wife for 25 years, and she died. And then last March, my dad died. Now, in heaven, is it Ruth or Lavonne that he is married to? This is not old-fashioned stuff. This makes a difference in how you think about things today. And Jesus’s answer is this in Mark 12:24:

Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?

Who’s he talking to? Scribes and Pharisees — people who specialize in the Bible. And he’s saying, “You don’t know your Scriptures,” implying, “If you knew your Scriptures, you wouldn’t be making this mistake.” Do you see the way it’s functioning? He is saying, “You don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” And then in Mark 12:25–26, he goes on to answer:

For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read . . .

The only point I’m making there is that when he criticizes their snide use of this Old Testament principle of the marriage of a brother to a widow, he says, “You wouldn’t make the mistake about the resurrection if you understood the Scriptures better.” He does that in other places as well. And he says things like, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 12:7). It’s just one little phrase. He says, “You wouldn’t be accusing my disciples of Sabbath-breaking as they eat the grain, walking from one place to the other, if you knew the meaning of the sentence, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’” So, Jesus believed that the whole Old Testament, understood in its redemptive-historical context, would keep us from doctrinal error.

Fulfilling the Scriptures

Jesus devoted his life to fulfilling the scriptures about the Messiah. Luke 18:31 says:

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.”

I was just talking to one of you about the role of fulfilled prophecy in coming to faith in Christ and in coming to confidence. Now, I have a whole packet of overheads on fulfilled prophecy that I’m not even going to show you because there isn’t time, but we will see it here.

Jesus believed that everything that he did, and that John the Baptist did his whole life, was laid out for them in the Old Testament, which is how he tried to bring his life into conformity with it. He said, “Everything written about me in the Prophets is going to be accomplished.” Why? Because God wrote it. God said it, and it’s going to happen.

Look at this one. The ministry of Jesus and John the Baptist is being played out according to Scripture in Mark 9:11–13. The passage says:

And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

Here you have the phrase “it is written of him” concerning John the Baptist, and you have, “How is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer?” So, both the Son of Man and this Elijah figure, who is John the Baptist, have their script written out for them in the Bible. Jesus is saying, “That’s what’s happening. What’s happening before your eyes is what God said would happen.”

Jesus saw his betrayal as the fulfillment of Scripture:

The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born (Matthew 26:24).

So, even the betrayal is written. You get the impression as you go along here that right down to the details of his betrayal the script is written hundreds of years earlier. That’s not a human possibility. That’s only possible if God is doing it.

Walking in a Sovereign Script

Jesus saw the disciples’ abandonment as a fulfillment of Scripture:

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’” (Matthew 26:31).

This creates very significant theological challenges, right? This is sin, right? To fall away from Jesus, to abandon Jesus in his hour of trial is sinful. And the reason it’s happening is that it’s written that it would happen.

Jesus saw his arrest as criminal, and also as a fulfillment of scripture:

For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment (Luke 22:37).

So, his arrest like a criminal had to happen, because it was written. He also says:

Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so? (Matthew 26:53–54).

In other words, “If I escape from this moment by appealing for divine help and don’t walk into the jaws of this lion, the Scriptures wouldn’t be fulfilled. I am calculating my entire life to nail down the absolute authority of the Bible.” That’s what he’s saying — “I’m not going to do anything that would undo what is written of me as I go toward the cross.”

Jesus taught that we should not be slow to believe all that the Old Testament prophets have spoken:

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Luke 24:25).

I was praying this morning from my own heart, and I read Psalm 38 this morning. It’s a wonderful Psalm if you’ve ever done horrible sins and been broken and wonder if you could ever be restored to God. And I know a man who needs that right now. I need it from time to time. I was enjoying it this morning and just walking through it and confessing my own insecurities, my own sins, my own doubts, my own — to use the words here — “slowness of heart.” Isn’t that an interesting phrase? He rebukes them for “slowness of heart” to believe.

Slow of Heart to Believe

What’s wrong with our hearts? We’re all plagued with this. Sometimes our heart feels immediately ready — “Show me anything. Tell me anything. I’m all there for you.” And other times we’re just disengaged and so slow, and dragging our feet, and our emotions are pulling us another way. And there’s the reason why the Bible feels so distant from us and why it’s so easy for us to fall for arguments against it when it’s really a heart issue. And he was just so perplexed and said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” I just ask you to join me in those early morning prayers. Ask the Lord, “Father, I don’t want to be slow to believe what I see in the Bible. I want to be quick to believe. I want to be so inclined to believe that everywhere I have light and understanding I’m embracing.” The readiness will make more light.

One of the reasons more light doesn’t shine on the Bible for us is because there is slowness and resistance. I’m not saying everything becomes perfectly clear when your heart is perfectly right. There are hard things. Peter thought so. Peter thought there were hard things in the Bible that we got to have help with (2 Peter 3:16). We’ve got to read those books on Bible difficulties, go to seminars, and get books and commentaries and read and study. But the biggest issue is: Am I slow of heart to believe everything that’s there? And Jesus thought all that the prophets have spoken should be believed because they wrote the truth, and they wrote from God.

Step Five: How Can We Justify the Claim the Bible Makes for Itself?

So, that’s the end of section four, which asked, “What does the Bible claim for itself?” I’m going to move to step five because it’s the biggest and the most important one. How can we justify the claim that the Bible makes for itself and credit the inspiration in an errancy and authority of all the books of the Bible? That’s where we’re going next.

This step takes the greatest amount of reflection, I think, on how we can justify the claim that the Bible is God’s word. Now, there are so many different approaches you could take at this point. Different philosophies of apologetics go in different directions. I’m just going to take one approach, and don’t assume it’s the only one.

If you are led by the Lord to give extended mental effort to study apologetics and provide more foundation, get good, solid books. I have a list of some somewhere that I can show you later on apologetics or defenses of the Bible, and go after it. My defense is not the sum total of how the Bible can be argued for; it’s just a way that is very influenced by what I’ve said in one of the previous sessions — namely, that there are very few lifelong scholars in this room who are going to devote their entire professional life to studying the historical reasons for the Bible’s truthfulness.

Most of you have jobs and families and you cannot and are not expected by God to live your life that way. And yet you are expected by God to believe the Bible to the degree that you will lay your life down for what it says, which means that there must be — I’m hugely influenced by this — a way to confidence that is rationally legitimate and not stupid, as if you would leap into the void with no warrant. There must be a way that a layman can follow, who doesn’t have time or proclivity to be a scholar. And that’s what’s influencing what I choose here.

Reasoning for Biblical Authority

I just said something that perhaps I should argue for — namely, that you shouldn’t leap into the dark. In other words, let’s say here’s the Qur’an and here’s the Bible, and I say, “Let’s just leap for the Bible. Flip a coin, and it lands on Bible.” The reason that’s not a good idea, even if you choose rightly, is because the Bible isn’t honored when you do that.

If a man comes up to you on the street with $10,000 in a bag and it’s cash, and he says to you, “Hi, would you please go deposit this for me in Northwest account? My name is so-and-so. And my account number is so-and-so. Please go deposit it.” And you say to him, “You have $10,000 in cash. I don’t know you from Adam.” He says, “I know,” and you say, “But why are you trusting me?” and then he says, “I don’t have any reason at all. Just please go do it.”

Now, do you feel honored at that moment? Well, if you do, you’re stupid. I mean, why would you feel honored? There’s absolutely no reason why he’s trusting you. This guy is crazy. That’s all that you can conclude. He comes up to a total stranger, gives him a bag of $10,000, tells him his name, and his account, and tells him to go deposit the money. That trust is stupid. And therefore the person trusted isn’t honored.

However, if he comes up to you or somebody else comes up to you with a bag of $10,000, gives it to you, tells you his name, gives you his account number, says, “Please go deposit it at Wells Fargo,” you say, “Well, wait a minute. I don’t know you. Why are you trusting me?” and he looks at you with great seriousness and says, “Well, you haven’t seen me, but we work in the same place. We have for about a year. I’ve been watching you every day. You’re an honest man. I can tell by the way you talk to people, by the way you keep your time clock, and by the way you fill out reports. I’ve got five good reasons why I know you’re an honest man. You’ll do it.”

Now, how do you feel? You feel that the trust that he has in you is honoring to you. Well, that’s the way God is. If you say, “I’m trusting you, God,” and he says, “Why?” and you say, “No reason. I’m just leaping in the dark because I’m afraid of hell. And it’s hotter in Christianity than any other religion I can find. And so, I’m just going for it,” he’s just not honored by that. But if he says, “Why do you trust me?” and you give him several reasons for why you trust him, then he’s glorified and he’s honored.

So, when I say it’s not a good idea to just leap into the dark when it comes to Christianity, that’s the basic reason why. I just don’t think the Bible points us there because the Bible is very concerned with the glory of God. He wants to be honored. He means to be glorified.

Building a Case with the Westminster Confession

So, how can we justify the claim that the Bible is the word of God and do it in a way that all of you, with the help of the Holy Spirit, could have profound confidence in the Scriptures, even if you’re not a professional historian or a biblical scholar? That’s where we’re going and why.

I’m just going to choose the Westminster Confession of Faith as an example of how in one tradition of the church this question has been answered. I’m going to read paragraph 1.5 from the Westminster Confession so that you can see it. And then I’m going to take the Westminster Catechism, where this has turned into a question, and break it down into pieces and build basically this whole unit around those pieces. The Westminster Confession says:

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture, and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole, (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God . . .

Up until now, they’re just listing all the ways that you can be brought to have confidence in the Bible, including the testimony of the church and all these pieces here. But it continues:

Yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts.

This is an effort to give credit to these indications of the Bible’s truthfulness, and yet, to admit that in and of themselves the full persuasion and assurance of infallible truth won’t come without something else happening. Most of our time today is going to be spent unpacking that.

The catechism is the same thing, just put in question-answer form. The question is:

How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the word of God?

This is a catechism that was taught to those who grew up under the Westminster Confession and catechism. And the answer to that question is:

The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God . . .

We’re going to make much of that. They manifest themselves. In other words, out of the Bible itself are coming evidences and indications and manifestations that it is the word of God. And our job is to spot those and see those and be persuaded by them to be the word of God. The answer continues:

By their majesty, and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation — but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very Word of God.

So, we’re going to walk through those six steps of how this confession believes — and I’m agreeing with it — that we can be brought to be confident in the word of God.

The Evidence of Majesty

The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God, it says, “by their majesty.” How does that work? How does their majesty lead us to confidence in them? These texts are the ones that they give. Hosea 8:12 says, “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing” (KJV). The implication here is that the greatness of the things that were written should disincline one to consider them strange and reject them.

First Corinthians 2:6–9 says:

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world (this is Paul giving a testimony of his own authority), nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery . . .

If that’s true that the wisdom of God, the wisdom of an infinite creator, is being expressed in Paul’s language, you would think there would be majestic marks about it that would testify to our conscience, “This is not of man. This is of God.” The passage continues:

Even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

This is the wisdom of God in a mystery that’s being revealed to us. No human eye has seen such things. No ear has heard such things. And they have never entered into the heart of man. That means there is something unique that is being revealed in the Bible, in the apostolic teaching, that hasn’t come up into the heart of man. It is so outside our experience that it comes and brings a message to bear that is not explainable by human imagination.

Beauty Beyond Words

Many people have been converted this way, and I’m arguing, it’s a valid conversion. As they read the Gospels and they read the Epistles, they may not even be able to put it into exact words that they are seeing a message and wisdom, and a way of God in the world that authenticates itself by saying, “No man ever came up with this. This isn’t what human beings come up with as a way of teaching about their own sinfulness and the glory of God’s grace, and the death of a Messiah. This whole thing clicks with me.”

This is one of the reasons why our faith can sometimes be so assaulted, because we were brought to faith in a kind of macro vision of the ways of God and the character of God, and the ways of Christ and the character of Christ such that we couldn’t put it into a nice little list for somebody if they were to say, “Tell me five reasons why you submitted to the Bible?” It all came to bear on us with such a force of its own authenticity, its own unique divinity, that we could not resist it. And yet when somebody pins you to say, “Tell me.” You grope around and you just want to say, “Well, just read it. Take a look.”

If you had time and you sat down with a piece of paper and started going through the Bible, just making comments about the kinds of things in it that gripped you, you’d come up with a pretty impressive list. But what I’m pointing out here is that the majesty of the Bible — that’s the word we’re working on here — means there is wisdom here. There are inscrutable ways here that are higher than our ways. And if God is removing the slowness of our hearts, we see this is not what men come up with. That’s number one.

There are other texts that I just point you to:

Open my eyes, that I may behold
     wondrous things out of your law (Psalm 119:18).

What I just described to you might land on some of you, and you may be saying, “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. That’s never happened to me at all.” And if that’s the case, you need to pray this prayer. I pray it all the time because our sight, once it happens, is not always as clear as it was. I mean, the night when you were brought to faith and you repented and renounced your sins you saw him as true and beautiful and inescapable, but the next night Satan may have been hammering you so hard and bringing in so many blinding things across your eyes that you started to fear, “Did I see anything?” This is why Bible authors pray like this.

I mean, why else would you pray like this, if you didn’t have those kinds of battles, right? Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things. You’ve been in seasons of your life where you open this book morning after morning and nothing looks wonderful. You’ve been in seasons like that. Those are scary seasons. Don’t be content with those seasons. Fight in those seasons with prayers like this till you get to the point where you can say, “Thy testimonies are wonderful (Psalm 119:129). There’s a majesty about them, a wonder about them that just can’t be explained by the sin that I see in the world and the kind of human beings that are all around me.”

The Evidence of Purity

Then it says in the Westminster Catechism answer that we are brought to faith in the Word by its purity.

The words of the Lord are pure words:
     As silver tried in a furnace of earth,
     purified seven times (Psalm 12:6, KJV).

There’s the statement of it. The words of the Lord are like words that have been put through a furnace seven times to burn away all the dross. There is a purity to the words. And here’s a group of statements. I quoted it last night. I think everybody should memorize it:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
     reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
   ​​  making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
     rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
     enlightening the eyes (Psalm 19:7–8).

They’re picking up on that last one. It’s just interesting to look at these correspondences. It’s perfect, and it goes to converting. It’s sure, and it goes to wisdom. It’s right, and it goes to joy. It’s pure, and it goes to illumination and light. Clean is almost the same as pure. It says, “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever” (Psalm 19:9). So, there is a purity to the word of God.

Another thing to say about this answer of the Westminster catechism is that it’s the coming together of all of these that gives them their cumulative effect. At any given time, one might be rising to the service and another might be rising to the service, but it’s the cumulative effect, which you can hardly quantify when you’re giving yourself to read the Bible.

The Cumulative Effect of Inspired Words

It happens like this. I was in Germany, I remember, and on one Easter Sunday a testimony time was opened before the baptism. They had a baptism every Easter Sunday morning at this Baptist church we were attending in Munich, and a woman gave this testimony.

She said, “I have been in the Jehovah’s Witnesses most of my life, and was so despairing last year” — I think it was last year, though I can’t remember what time exactly — “that I was going to commit suicide because there was no way I could know whether I had stood on a corner and held up the Watchtower long enough, or knocked on enough doors to get into the 144,000. I just couldn’t tell.” And she said, “I gave myself to reading Luke one more time, and God met me on Good Friday and vindicated himself with the purity of his life in Christ.” You could ask, “Why not all that time before?” But there it was.